Welcome back to WHEEL OF OUTRAGE, the game where we take the innocuous comments of a public figure, distort their meaning and intent, and turn allies into enemies! Let’s see who was dumb enough to say something into a microphone this week!
Let’s say hello to tonight’s contestant, actress Patricia Arquette! You may remember her as Alabama Worley in TRUE ROMANCE (I certainly do), that lousy CBS show where she was a psychic, or most recently as the struggling single mom in BOYHOOD — a role that just won her a richly deserved Academy Award!
Looks like Ms. Arquette made the mistake of trying to say something in her Oscar acceptance speech, because this week has been full of thinkpieces decrying her appallingly insensitive and racist statements. Let’s see what she said:
“We don’t have equal rights for women in America and we don’t because when they wrote the Constitution, they didn’t intend it for women. So, the truth is, even though we sort of feel like we have equal rights in America, right under the surface, there are huge issues that are applied that really do affect women. It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now.”
Wait, that’s it? Rewind that, let’s see it again.
“It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now.”
If you’re confused about what exactly she said that was so offensive, you’ve got company. But don’t worry, Slate’s Amanda Marcotte is here to explain why we should all be horrified:
Where to begin? Perhaps with pointing out that “gay people” and “people of color” are both categories that include women. Indeed, when it comes to wage inequality, race is as much a factor as gender. The American Association of University Women analyzed census data on the wage gap and found that although white women make 78 cents to a white man’s dollar in the United States, black women make a mere 64 cents, and Latina women make a paltry 54 cents. Similarly, being gay or transgender often means taking a hit in income. The Center for American Progress finds that same-sex couples raising children make about 20 percent less than straight couples in the same situation. Transgender people have a poverty rate that is four times that of the general population. It is definitely not time for “all the gay people” and “all the people of color” to set aside their own battle for equality in order to fight for straight, white women now.
Ms. Marcotte is absolutely correct that now is not the time for anyone to set aside their own battles to fight for straight white women. But that is not at all what Ms. Arquette said. Nor did she specify that she was speaking for straight white women, to the exclusion of the other kinds of women.
If we assume that Ms. Arquette’s heart is in the right place — and I think we can assume that, as she has a transgender sibling and is younger than 70, so likely neither racist nor homophobe — the most reasonable interpretation of her comments is more along the lines of “Hey, other communities struggling with inequality! We women are behind you and we always have been, but we are not exactly out of the woods yet either, so please get our back like we’ve had yours.” She may have been a little clumsy with her syntax, but does anyone really think that Patricia Arquette is calling for the suspension of activism on behalf of LGBT POCs so that everyone can focus 100% on pay equality for women? Are we really so dumb as to think that pointing out one problem means we’re degrading the importance of another?
I don’t think anyone really thinks that, which is what makes “controversies” like this so frustrating. Did Patricia Arquette fully encapsulate the injustice of wage and employment disparity as it applies to all groups around the world in her remarks? No. Are there bigger problems in the world than the one she pointed out? Certainly. But why does that invalidate what she said?
It’s stuff like this that’s making me avoid left-leaning news sites every bit as carefully as I avoid the right-leaning ones. I haven’t gone near the Huffington Post or Salon.com in years — not because I disagree with their politics but because they seem to have dedicated themselves to parsing and policing everything anyone says in public and looking for things to pretend to be outraged by. The left is quickly becoming the humorless PC thought police that the right has long caricatured, and it’s not a good look.
Dear Hippies: Judging by her statement, Patricia Arquette is one of the good guys. If you want to get pissed off about wage and employment inequality, direct that anger at someone who’s complicit in the problem, not someone who is calling attention to it, even if they are doing so imperfectly.
We’re supposed to be circling the wagons, not the rifles.